The broken and bloody corpses of bad sequels litter the horror movie landscape. So often studios grab any director and any screenplay in hopes of slapping a giant ‘2’ on something to make an extra buck before it is too late. Somehow, every once in while a franchise manages to avoid getting ground up in the chipper-shredder. However, among the dead bodies are some killer underrated horror sequels that deserve recognition. This list names 6, but many more underrated horror sequels exist.
If a movie you love didn’t make this list, be sure to check the other reviews and articles to see if the film was covered there. The 6 killer underrated horror sequels are listed in no particular order.
The Fly II (1989)
David Cronenberg did not direct The Fly II. Nor did The Fly II star everyone’s favorite insect hybrid Jeff Goldblum. The suggestion that the The Fly II is not as good as the it predecessor is true. However none of the means that the movie isn’t be good. This film stars Eric Stolz as Martin Bartok, the biological son of Seth Brundle. Daphne Zuniga portrays Beth, an employee at Bartok Industries. For those that don’t remember, Bartok Industries funded the original teleportation exploits of Seth Brundle in the first film.
The Fly II, directed by Chris Walas, begins with the birth of Martin via a chrysalis pulled from the womb of his mother. Unfortunately, his mother does not survive the childbirth. Anton Bartok agrees to adopt Martin. At first Martin shows genius level intellect and accelerated growth. Eventually, Martin’s reality sets in. His gift is actually a curse. Martin slowly begins the descent into transforming into an insect hybrid. Bartok’s good graces eventually run dry when his true intention to revive Brundle’s teleporters becomes clear.
Nobody will confuse this film with Cronenberg’s original. However, Eric Stolz manages to play Martin Bartok well enough to evoke sympathy for his character. The Fly II tells a decent story while maintaining good continuity with the original film. The Fly II entertains much more than its 29% on Rotten Tomatoes would suggest. Walas concludes the film with Martin getting a delightful revenge on Bartok. The Fly II is a good movie and a worthy placement on the underrated horror sequels list.
Halloween II (2009)
Sequels must always fight against the film that came before. Even harder is fighting against an entire franchise that came before. Rob Zombie found himself in this situation as he tried to reboot the Halloween franchise in 2007. Predictably, Rob Zombie failed to covert every rabid Halloween to his vision. To be honest, the fans levied fair criticism against Zombie’s 2007 remake. Malevolent Dark found that the 2007 reboot of Halloween followed too narrowly in John Carpenter’s footsteps during the kills scenes. Regardless, Zombie took a significant risk getting into Michael Myers’ head and he added an entirely new dimension to the character.
Here is something that Zombie’s franchise did well, casting. Malcom McDowell as Dr. Loomis and Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett elevated the supporting cast. These characters continue in Halloween 2 (2009) and they effectively carry the film during slow sequences. This headroom allows zombie to spend sufficient time developing the psychological unraveling of Laurie Strode.
Now for the bad, the white horse. The white horse narrative provides a zombie a metaphorical outlet to artistically describe Michael’s unquenchable rage. Its not the symbolism that abrades the experience. The continual white horse interludes take away from the violence and gritty tone of the rest of the movie. It honestly feels like another way to shoe-horn Sheri Moon Zombie into a more prominent role. Sheri Moon’s proves critical in the final stand-off with Myer’s and Loomis, balancing out her presence. Taken in stride, the whole thing isn’t enough to derail this otherwise powerful movie.
Rob Zombie also released a Director’s Cut of the film that includes 14 minutes of additional footage. The Director’s Cut improves on this. Certainly, some will disagree, but Rob Zombie chooses to have Michael Myers speak. He utters the word “DIE”, but the impact is profound. All along Zombie’s arc, he emphasized one critical aspect of Michael Myers. Michael Myers is human, nothing more, nothing less. The rage and the strength and even his emotional sense of self are merely human traits and nothing more. With one word, Zombie cements that idea inextricably in the heads of the audience.
Halloween II (2009) sits at a paltry 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and is a perfect candidate on the list of killer underrated horror sequels.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser burst onto the horror scene like cold chains erupting from Lemanchard’s Box. Barker forged one of the few truly original storylines in the entire horror genre. Based upon his novella “The Hellbound Heart”, Hellraiser introduced the iconic horror movie monsters, the Cenobites. Pinhead, continues to provide a face for the entire horror genre. Following up on a film of such integrity would be be difficult for sure.
One of the things that works in favor of Helllbound: Hellraiser II is that Clive Barker remained connected to the franchise. He did give up the directing reigns to Tony Randel, but together they could continue to work towards a common vision. Often with sequels, the second film diverges too far from that path set by the earlier film. Hellbound enjoys tight continuity by taking place immediately after the events of the first film.
Barker and Randel maintain momentum by bringing critical members of the original cast back together. Ashley Lawrence and Clare Higgins return to their roles as Kirsty and Julia. Doug Bradley returns as as Pinhead. In another fantastic casting decisions, Kenneth Cranham portrays the diabolical Dr. Channard, a villain even more depraved than brother Frank.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II takes a more ambitious approach than the original. The majority of the first film occurred in the confines of a single home. The setting of Hellbound includes the posh home of Dr. Channard, the catacombs of a mental institution and an in-depth look into the massive hell-world of the Cenobites. This ambition allows ample room to expand upon the mythology of the Cenobites. The revelation of the mythology only raises more questions, “like what is Leviathan?”
Hellbound: Hellraiser II arguably tells a much more profound story that the original. Yet, it maintains the status quo with respect to the tone, effects and music. This ensures tight integration with the original. With a Rotten Tomato score of 50%, this film didn’t get panned as hard as some, but clearly it deserves more consideration than it received. In addition to proudly adding Hellbound to the underrated horror sequels list, Malevolent Dark considers Hellbound: Hellriser II to be superior to the original.
Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm snuck onto the scene in 1979 and largely caught the horror industry on its heels. This low-budget movie combines a spooky surreal environment, an iconic bad guy and legitimate scares and chills. The bad-guy, The Tall Man, played by Angus Scrimm, carried with him a set of sentient spheres packed with mechanical implements of death. Finally, Coscarelli punctuated it with a fantastic, and presumably conclusive, jump scare ending. That marked the last time anyone heard of Phantasm for 9 years.
Malevolent Dark always likes to give a shout-out to Saturday Night Shockers on KPLR 11 for bringing this national treasure to late night public television.
In 1988, Coscarelli decided to resurrect the franchise. To the dismay of fans, Coscarelli was not able to bring back A. Michael Baldwin, to play the lead Mike Pearson. Fortunately, he was able to again obtain the services of Reggie Bannister to play, who else, Reggie. The film beings immediately after the events of the original film. Truthfully, it’s a bit hard to handle the actor shift for Michael especially since the film makes use of flashbacks from the original. However, this pain fades quickly enough.
Don Coscarelli decided to take this film in a different direction than the original. Rather than two guys on the run from evil, Reggie and Michael decide to take to the offensive. They track The Tall Man on his tour of destruction across the country. They take up a variety of comically self-assembled weapons. Likewise The Tall Man upgrades his arsenal of spheres. This results in a zany extravaganza of guns and destruction. The whole things works way better than it might sound.
With Phantasm II, Coscarelli took a step beyond horror and instead tried make an action movie anchored on the legacy of a horror movie. It ditches the ethereal tone of the original in favor of a more direct and in-your-face style. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t proper horror moments. All of the hallmarks from the original film make a comeback. In fact, the one of the sphere-kills sets the bar for super-cool and gory kills. It currently sits at 38% on the critics list at Rotten tomatoes. Clearly those critics don’t know what time it is. Phantasm II absolutely deserves an entry on the list of killer underrated horror sequels.
Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
The Friday the 13th series has its ups and downs, and Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives marks the precipice of the decline that the franchise would ultimately take. To say another way, it’s all down hill from here. Jason Lives is notable because it marks the return of Jason Voorhees. The franchise temporarily replaced Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning to the disappointment of fans. For the record, Malevolent Dark loves A New Beginning and would like to have a word with those fans.
The story begins with Tommy Jarvis, played by Thom Mathews. Tommy, still suffering flashbacks, must confront Jason at his grave to ensure that he is really dead. After exposing the corpse, Tommy impales Jason several times with a steel picket from the cemetery fence. In an unfortunate twist of fate, lightning strikes the metal pole, bringing Jason back to life. You heard that right. As a fan, this is the moment of truth, you are either in or you are out. If you can hang with the electrically revived corpse of Jason, the rest of the movie is actually pretty fun.
Director Tom McLoughlin chose to migrate away from the gritty and serious tone of the previous installments. The comedy that he infuses isn’t side-splitting, but it still marks a departure from the status-quo. McLoughlin also introduces a more complex plotline. Previous films lined up teenagers at Summer camp and mowed them down. The director introduces more conflict with David Kagan as Sheriff Mike Garris. Garris has it out for Tommy. Finally, rock and roll ghoul Alice Cooper offers several time appropriate contributions to the soundtrack.
Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives provides a fresh take on the series. McLoughlin makes good casting decisions that provide character dynamics that go beyond predator and prey. As far as pure horror movies are concerned, Jason Lives leave something to be desired. Fortunately, the sacrifices made in the horror department pay dividends in the entertainment department. Truth be know, Jason Lives did get some love from fans upon its release, but the critic score on Rotten Tomatoes stands at 50% qualifying it as another key entry on the killer underrated horror sequels list.
Damien: The Omen II
The Omen (1976) painted a chilling portrait of an aristocratic family unwittingly raising the son of Satan. Released during a rash of successful movies centered around Satanic plots and conspiracies, The Omen frightened audiences with tales of biblical evil. The Omen also laid claim to several brutal and iconic kill scenes. The film ends with Robert Thorn, played by Gregory Peck, being shot and killed by police just before killing Damien with the fabled daggers of Megiddo. Damien survived, making a sequel inevitable.
Damien: The Omen II follows the child Antichrist as he navigates adolescence into adulthood. In that sense, The Omen II presents a diabolical world-ending coming of age story. Robert Thorn’s brother, Richard, takes in Damien after Robert’s death. Damien grows up with Richard’s real son Mark Thorn and both boys attend military school together. There they find a agent of Satan waiting to take Damien under his protection in order to usher in the apocalypse.
Damien: The Omen II really ratchets up the biblical threat level. Son of Satan or not, nobody fears a 3 year old. In The Omen II, The audience can see the transformation from the cherubic young man into the realized potential for global domination.
The Omen II also continues the trend set by its predecessor for creative and anxiety inducing kills. Those with claustrophobia will squirm as two men are slowly buried under collapsing earth. Those same people will writhe as they watch a man trapped under ice. The elevator scene could is arguably be among some of the best movies kills of all time. Finally, the transformation into world conqueror completes when Damien must kill his lifetime companion, Mark, when he learns the truth about Damien.
Damien: The Omen II outshines its predecessor. That is not to say that the original doesn’t satisfy, but at the end of the day, the first film was a film about a family. The Omen II is the turning point of a story about the end of the world. Damien: The Omen II scores a disappointing 44% on Rotten Tomatoes as if to say “screw these guys for actually trying create a cohesive storyline across a trilogy of movies”. The bottom line is that Damien confidently holds its ground on the list of killer underrated horror sequels.
The Horrible Mentions…
This list by no means represents the totality of killer underrated horror sequels. In fact, this list doesn’t even contain what I was able to scratch out on a notepad before writing this article. This is simply a list of 6 killer underrated horror sequels that didn’t get crossed off for other reasons. Most of those reasons had to do with spreading the love across other franchises and not writing again about something already reviewed in full on Malevolent Dark. The long-list of underrated horror sequels includes:
– Amityville II: The Possession
Truly underrated and possibly the better of the first films. Click Here!
– The Exorcist III
Possibly ones of the best franchise recoveries of ALL time. The Exorcist 3 is a legend among underrated horror sequels. Click Here!
– Friday the 13th Part 5
I get it, no Jason. But if you pretend that the guy behind the mask is Jason, this is one of better Friday films. Click Here!
– Halloween III
I said it before and I will say it again. This movie was never as bad as everyone said and it deservedly is having a resurgence. Click Here!
– Blair Witch II: Book of Shadows
How do you follow up a film like the The Blair Witch Project? Flip the script, that’s how.
– The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
Tobe Hooper picks a new direction and slays it with his dark comedy follow-up to the greatest horror movie of all time. Click Here!
– The Omen III: The Final Conflict
The end-cap on a great satanic trilogy.
– Demons II
Not better than the original, but has everything you want from a Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava joint.